This article was published on February 15th, 2022
The highly anticipated sequel to the award-winning “Downton Abbey” is finally coming to theaters in the UK and US. Focus Features, Universal Pictures International, and Carnival Films announced that the film, previously dated for March 18, 2022, will launch in theaters exclusively in the UK on April 29, 2022, and in the US on May 20, 2022.
Written by award-winning series creator Julian Fellowes, the new motion picture event will reunite the beloved cast as they go on a grand journey to the South of France to uncover the mystery of the Dowager Countess’ newly inherited villa.
The original principal cast has returned for the second film, along with new additions Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, Nathalie Baye, and Dominic West. Emmy and BAFTA Award-winning Gareth Neame will produce the screenplay, whereas Emmy Award-winning Liz Trubridge with BAFTA and Emmy nominated Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) will be directing.
With anticipation edging towards fever pitch levels, many fans will be eager to see what has become of the characters they grew to love in the six seasons of the popular period drama. However, for LGBTQ+ fans of Downton Abbey, there will be even more excitement to see the return of gay character Thomas Barrow, who will be portrayed once again by Rob James-Collier.
For many in the LGBTQ+ community, Barrow is a beloved character. He’s one of the most complex figures on the show, and though he’s often villainized and ostracized for his sexual orientation, he’s also shown as having a softer side and normal feelings.
The fact that Barrow is a key character in Downton Abbey is a big deal for queer fans of the show — as well as for LGBTQ+ representation in Hollywood in general.
Barrow is not just a gay character, he’s not just an openly gay character, and he’s not just a gay character played by an openly gay actor. He’s all three. That may not seem like much to celebrate today, but it was a big step forward when the British series first premiered in 2010.
When Downton Abbey debuted in 2010, it set itself apart from other period dramas by featuring a gay character — Thomas. Though homosexuality was illegal in England until 1967, Julian Fellowes made sure to include Thomas as part of his ensemble cast. However, though Thomas’ sexuality wasn’t illegal during this period, it was often still taboo.
In a past interview with the Press Association, Rob said his character’s storyline depicts the cruel treatment of being a gay man way back in the 1920s.
“It was horrific, and it’s brought back, and it just shows how different it was,” the actor said. “It must have been so hard for him, and that is why the people warm to him and root for Thomas now, and they certainly will in the film if you watch it.”
Throughout the course of six seasons and 52 episodes, we’ve seen Thomas grow and embrace his sexuality. He’s also one of the few characters who have found love; every other romantic relationship on Downton ended in heartbreak for him. Because of this enormous milestone for LGBTQ+ representation on television, Downton Abbey has become a favorite among many queer fans.
Although he may have been flawed, he also had a strong moral code and was loyal. And even though he had to deal with homophobia from other members of staff and society, he still found ways to make it work for himself and, in the end, managed to find happiness.
It will be interesting to see how Thomas’ story is approached in the sequel considering there’s a huge stigma around queer people today who are still living in those times.
While there’s no doubt that Downton Abbey is an epic period drama and a beloved television show, it’s also a place where viewers can go to forget about their troubles for a bit and see characters who despite their wealth and stature, face the same trials, tribulations and joys as anyone else.
The Crawley’s have had their fair share of drama over the years, but the sequel is expected to be even bigger and better than ever before. Hopefully, we’ll be surprised with a little more from Thomas and his “harrowing” exploits.
Watch the trailer: